Ambiguity in Laws made by Parliament due to low quality of Debate
● Recently the Chief Justice of India said that ambiguity in laws due to low quality of debate triggers litigation and causes inconvenience to citizens.
● He said an elaborate discussion during the law-making process reduces litigation since when courts interpret legislation, "we all know the intent of the legislature".
● Justice Ramana's remarks come against the backdrop of the tumultuous Monsoon session of Parliament when several bills were passed without any debate during the pandemonium following relentless protests by the Opposition over the Pegasus snooping row, farm laws, price rise and other issues.
1. Parliament is not only a legislative body but also a deliberative body. Critically examine.
Significance of parliamentary debates:
● Deliberation on any piece of legislation from diverse perspectives improves the quality of decision-making.
● Debates are an opportunity for members of parliament(MPs) to discuss government policy, proposed new laws and current issues.
● It allows MPs to voice the concerns and interests of their constituents.
● An interpretation of laws requiresan understanding of why these laws were made and how they were planning to plug the gaps in our legal system. Deliberations in Parliament and scrutiny of laws in its committees contribute to this understanding.
● The debate clarifies the government’s intent and the ministers respond to the debate and clarify questions about the law that MPs may have. These deliberations in Parliament are the means for the judiciary to interpret the intent behind laws.
● There are a lot of gaps and a lot of ambiguity in the law-making process due to a lack of debates. There is no clarity regarding the laws.
Reason for disruptions:
● Use of disruption as a tool to register a disagreement to government policy.
● A lot of the time MPs misbehave under orders from their whip when their party does not want some piece of legislation to be introduced.
● No attempt among political parties to build consensus.
● Use of Majority in parliament to pass bills, without deliberation on the bill.
● The absence of intellectuals and professionals in the Parliament.
● Use of parliamentary debate for political agenda, not for deliberation on the bill.
● In every democracy, there would be contentious issues and the strength of democracy would be demonstrated by the quality of debate and deliberation on such issues.
● For debate and deliberation to happen, the parliamentary procedure would have to evolve to enable political parties on different sides of the issue to set the agenda for debate and discuss the issue in detail on the floor of the house. This would also require Parliament to meet for more days in a year and sit for longer hours. This would ensure that even if the proceedings are disrupted there is still enough time for deliberations.
● Parliament was always meant to engage with and undertake the legislative and deliberative business, representing the people of India.
No Parliamentary Immunity for Vandalism: SC
● Recently, the Supreme Court held that legislators who indulge in vandalism and general mayhem cannot claim parliamentary privilege and immunity from criminal prosecution.
● The Constitution provides for these privileges in two articles namely, Article 105 for Parliament and Article 194 for State Assemblies
Members of parliament or legislature only have parliamentary privileges and immunities essential for doing their duty. Comment.
Supreme Court Observations:
● Parliamentary privileges and immunities are not ‘gateways’ for legislators to claim exceptions from the law of the land, especially criminal law.
● Vandalism on the Assembly floor could not be equated with the right to protest by Opposition legislators. Destruction of public property could not be equated with the exercise of freedom of speech.
● Legislators should act within the parameters of the public trust imposed on them to do their duty. They had taken office swearing true allegiance to the Constitution. They had to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and had to perform the duty imposed on them by the people who elected them.
● It was definitely not for them to “betray the trust of the people”who elected them as lawmakers by engaging in wanton destruction of public property in the Assembly and then claim privilege and immunity from the very process of law.
● Engaging in acts of violence inside the Assembly could hardly be in the “larger public interest” or be considered as “legitimate” protests, as claimed by the State government and the accused leaders.
● The court said that MLAs only have parliamentary privileges and immunities essential for doing their duty. The court said breaking chairs and indulging in the destruction of public property on the Assembly floor could not be said to be an ‘essential function’.
● The Supreme Court had consistently taken a strong prima facie view against the conduct of the MLAs. The court said these legislators ought to face trial or there would be “absolutely no deterrent to this kind of behaviour.
(Also see: Article ‘Breach of Parliamentary Privileges and Need of Codification’ for more information.)